February 2017 Newsletter: Student-Faculty Research Pairs Share Findings

Left to right, Devin Cunningham, Dr. Aaron Romanowsky and Christopher Dixon pose for a photograph at San Jose State University, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Dr. Romanowsky is currently working with undergraduates on a research project. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Left to right, Devin Cunningham, Dr. Aaron Romanowsky and Christopher Dixon pose for a photograph at San Jose State University, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Dr. Romanowsky is currently working with undergraduates on a research project. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)13

By Barry Zepel

A college student’s ability to learn is most positively impacted when the pupil has the opportunity to work as a partner on a research project with a member of the faculty, according to findings presented at a recent American Association of Colleges and Universities conference.

SJSU’s Student-Faculty Research Pairs program provides opportunities for 33 undergraduate students to work with faculty mentors. The 33 pairs will share their work at the Celebration of Research, on Feb. 16, from 4 to 6 p.m., in the Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom.

With the help and guidance of the Center for Faculty Development, each pair prepares a poster to describe their project and the questions they hope their research will answer. Created through the university’s unique “Explorations in Research, Scholarships and Creative Activity” program umbrella in 2012, it offers undergraduates the opportunity to enrich their student experience while attending SJSU.

“As a pair, the idea is for the student and faculty member to write their proposal together, rather than the student write it and faculty member only approve it,” said Amy Strage, assistant vice president for Faculty Development.

This year’s research areas range from astronomy to healthcare-related topics to exploration into areas of mental health to ballet.

“Compact Galaxies & Black Holes” is the topic for juniors Devin Cunningham and Chris Dixon who are working with Aaron J. Romanowsky, associate professor of physics and astronomy. One of their research questions is “What are the origins of compact stellar systems?”

“With my previous affinity for black holes and stars, I wasn’t sure what to work on with Dr. Romanowsky,” said Dixon, a physics and astronomy major. “I’ve always found astronomy and black holes very interesting. I’ve never done any research before this.”

Cunningham, whose eventual academic goal is to complete doctoral studies in theoretical physics, added: “After attending a seminar showcasing Dr. Romanowsky’s research, Chris and I sought to work (with) him.”

Junior biology student Puneet Sanghera has been working with Katie Wilkinson, an assistant professor of biological sciences on “The Effects of Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Inflammation on Spinal Cord Excitability.” Wilkinson’s lab interests have included proprioception – “the ability to sense where your body is in space,” she explained.

February 2016 Newsletter: Undergraduates Gain Skills with Research

Madiha Shah and Ashleen Sandhu, ’16, Biomedical, Chemical and Materials Engineering, both became interested in creating a new way to deliver insulin for diabetic patients because of a family connection to the disease.

Sandhu said her mother was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during a pregnancy.

“It was really hard because some people don’t like needles,” Sandhu said, noting that her father helped by administering insulin injections to her needle-averse mother.

Shah’s mother also has diabetes and she said her work at a pharmacy puts her in contact with patients who have the disease.

Through SJSU’s Center for Faculty Development Undergraduate Research Pairs program, they received a grant to support research on developing a noninvasive patch to provide a daily insulin dosage for pediatric patients. Dr. Folarin Erogbogbo is serving as their faculty mentor.

“He’s there to give us technical feedback and to help us network with the right people,” said Shah, who plans to study pharmacology after she graduates from SJSU this spring.

Sandhu wants to find employment in a research lab after graduation.

“I am gaining essential skills that will allow me to apply for work,” Sandhu said. “We are working with machines and gaining lab skills from being exposed to those machines. One of the benefits of undergraduate research is that SJSU has a lot of up-to-date equipment.”

Morgan Chang, a computer science student, partnered with Dr. Katherine Wilkinson, from biological sciences, as part of the Undergraduate Research Pairs program. They studied the impact of a high-fat diet on glucose levels in mice.

“She is easing me into research,” he said, noting that they had just completed a proposal for grant funding to study the impact of obesity on the risk of falling. “I recently decided I want to go to med school so I want to do something with neurophysiology.”

This year, 34 students received grants to work with 20 faculty mentors, including students from the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business, the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering, the College of Science and the College of Social Sciences.